Poppies for Pops


“We should get matching tattoos, right Ange?” His face cracked into a goofy grin, winking at me as Mom walked back into the living room. “Um, I don’t think so,” she joked, and we all collapsed into laughter. This was before he had his Harley. Ink would have gone so well with that red Harley.

Pops and I would sit kitty corner to each other on the brown L-shaped sectional couch, duelling iPads in hand. We may not have believed in God anymore, but competitive Scrabble remained sacrosanct. He could beat the bloody computer. And once, only once, he let me win. He swore I won fair and square but we all know it was a courtesy loss. He’d prop up his legs on his wedge pillow to try to avoid swelling, with his electronic dictionary within reach, a small shot of single malt to hand. I can’t sip on scotch without imagining him stretched out there. His right leg crossed over his left at the ankle, moving his big toe to the beat of the music, his hands clutching imaginary drums sticks tapping into the air – the talented percussionist. And on the side table, a history book, or two. Or like, ten.

Pops was diagnosed with constrictive pericarditis when I was five years old. His cardiologist at St. Mike’s hospital gave him one year to live or a 50% chance of surviving open heart surgery. He did, and lived another 24 years with a pink scar running the centre of his sternum. His body shut down over time. Some nights when his medication wasn’t working, his heart rate would accelerate so fast Mom (a nurse, thankfully) would rush him to the hospital emergency room. Doctor’s would lay him out on a gurney and literally shock him out of his arrhythmic suffering. If only his heart could have kept the beat like his hands.

I’m writing because I wish he was here to see how I turn out. He’s never going to see me as a mother, and it wounds me because so much of the goodness I have with Charlotte reflects who he was, how he lived. His encouragement. His patience and support. His insatiable intellect continues to inspire me, and I’d be happy to be even half as well read as he was. 

On the odd day when I feel like I’m drowning in the darkness of my divorce, in the struggle of single parenting, I reread his old emails. He had a way with words (I guess I inherited it from him). In 2010 when I was pushing through the pain of my graduate degree, he said,

“I know there’s not much fun in the hectic sometimes, but not to worry Ange, before you know it, the hard work will be done, and you’ll be doing something you enjoy. Life will be more settled with the insanity over. Mom and I are very proud of you and your extra efforts to achieve your goals. We’re glad that you’re enjoying the journey that you’re on Ange, and we realize it’s one that only a small percentage of our world have the courage to go on, but most important, and at the end of the day with people like you, we know your life’s journey will help make the world a better place.”

That makes me cry and cry. Especially today, of all days, when he would have celebrated sixty years. I will keep my promise I made to myself the day he died, to honour him by living every moment with meaning, with the same kindness and curiosity he possessed his entire life. If I’m lucky enough to raise my daughter as well as my parents raised me – so she feels brave even when she fails, with the gumption to be exactly who is she, pursuing her own happiness with an open-hearted willingness to chase her dreams – I will be fulfilled. He never got around to getting inked, but he always wanted to. So, these poppies are for Pops. Because he is remembered and terribly missed and fiercely loved.

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About the Author

Angela is founder and editor of Sasstainable, an insider voice on sustainable lifestyle and ethical luxury. In 2013, she completed her MSc in Environmental Management at the University of London, at the Centre for Development, Environment and Policy. Her passion for the environment grew out of her family's rural property in Raglan, Ontario, now a designated Natural Heritage System area in the Ontario Greenbelt. In 2009, she was granted Ryerson University's Top 30 Under 30 Alumni award, because of her work as a motivational speaker. She inspired over 30,000 high school and university students across North America. She is a published writer, contributing articles to Geez Magazine, Eluxe Magazine and Feelgood Style, among others. She enjoys fashion, cooking, art and yoga. She served on the board of directors for Toronto Zooshare Biogas Co-operative and Toronto Green Community. She currently lives in Toronto, Canada, with her 3 year-old daughter, Charlotte.

3 Enlightened Replies

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  1. Barbara Wallace says:

    Such beautiful words to remember such a beautiful man. You have made me laugh and cry all at once while reading your shared memories. He was and would continue to be so very proud of you and how you live. And the poppies are simply lovely…Dad would approve and so do I

  2. Viv Wallace says:

    Ange, what a beautiful tribute to your dad!! He was an amazing man, husband, father, papa – I could go on and on!! Ever the optimist, great sense of humour, compassion and concern for all. I know he would be so proud of Charlotte as he was of you, Bri and the boys. We all miss him, Ange, and he’ll be in our hearts forever!! Hugs!! xoxo

  3. Beautiful Tribute Angie, well spoken just like him. I always loved his long well written emails he would send me. we would discuss things back and forth. I really wish I still had kept them all to read again. He holds a special place in my heart, Always and Forever xo